Pictured, from left, are Hillsboro civil service-employee relations committee chair Mark Middleton, finance committee chair Mary Stanforth, mayor Justin Harsha, auditor Alex Butler and economic development coordinator Kirby Ellison. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Pictured, from left, are Hillsboro civil service-employee relations committee chair Mark Middleton, finance committee chair Mary Stanforth, mayor Justin Harsha, auditor Alex Butler and economic development coordinator Kirby Ellison. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
After over two hours of back-and-forth among current and former Hillsboro city council members and administrators Wednesday, a proposed pay ordinance for city employees has still not yet been finalized. By the time a committee meeting ended with council members agreeing on revisions to the ordinance, public works superintendent Shawn Adkins pointed out that “very few” changes to the original proposal will even be made.

The eventual proposed solution was to change some of the pay ranges so that those already making the maximum salary (or above) as outlined would only receive a cost-of-living raise and not an overall wage increase, while keeping the proposed step scales for other positions. However, that is all pending the next committee meeting, as official action has still not been taken.

As previously reported, approximately one-third of the Nov. 8 council meeting was devoted to discussing the proposed pay ordinance for city employees, which ultimately was scrapped from the agenda.

As proposed, the ordinance includes pay increases for “authorized positions” for the city, including the safety and service director; tax commissioner; chief building official/plans examiner; parks and recreation maintenance laborer; and economic development coordinator/grant writer. Also listed were salary ranges for non-union civil service employees, including police department positions not subject to collective bargaining; superintendents/supervisors; administrative positions; auditor, tax and utility office positions; water and wastewater licensed operators; labor pool positions; and legal positions.

The finance committee began discussing the proposed ordinance at their Oct. 21 meeting. According to chair Mary Stanforth, during a finance committee Nov. 3, the committee considered the proposed legislation’s impact on the 2022 budget and voted 3-0 to “send the pay ordinance to council” and to recommend suspension of the three-reading rule. During the Nov. 8 meeting, council member Patty Day argued that council violated its own bylaws by not having a joint meeting of the finance committee and civil service-employee relations committee to consider the ordinance. The ordinance was removed from the agenda pending a joint meeting of both committees.

On Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 6 p.m., both committees met at the Hillsboro city building to consider the legislation, with a special council meeting scheduled to be held immediately after. Of the two hours and 23 minutes devoted to the committee meeting, a great deal of the input came from Day, who is on neither committee; former council member Tracy Aranyos and former Hillsboro mayor Drew Hastings; and Greg Maurer and Ann Morris, both of whom serve on the finance committee that already met to discuss the ordinance twice and voted to advance the legislation.

It took two hours and six minutes for council members to even begin discussing a solution to the various disagreements presented, which included complaints that council received the legislation too late in the year and were under pressure to pass it in order to finalize the 2022 budget; concerns that increasing wages would lead to cutting funding in other areas; and numerous comments regarding the proposed pay raises.

It was repeated by council over 10 times throughout the course of the meeting that some employees — particularly laborers — were “deserving” of raises, but council members were opposed to some of the other pay scales. As was eventually pointed out by city economic development coordinator Kirby Ellison, the proposed salary for safety and service director Brianne Abbott seemed to be the impetus for much of the backlash.

The meeting began with Stanforth asking city auditor Alex Butler to explain the most recent proposed 2022 budget numbers, which reflected a tentative ending balance of $950,814.39 — assuming the pay ordinance as presented was passed.

Council member Claudia Klein, who is a member of the civil service-employee relations committee, asked if Butler considered possible lower income tax revenues in preparing the budget, based on the number of businesses that are hiring right now.

“I did not plan for a major financial hit with income tax collection next year, based off the numbers, where they have been in 2020 and 2021,” Butler said. “It is possible.”

Morris said she didn’t think the numbers would be “higher,” and at that point, she began discussing the pay ordinance.

According to Morris (and later Day), Day disseminated information comparing wages in other municipalities. Morris said she thought council should “take things apart” and compare the city’s pay scale to “cities our size.”

“I’m concerned that we overspend, and it’s really hard to get that back,” Morris said. “I would be willing to come in here every day for 30 days and dissect this thing to make sure each person’s getting the pay they deserve for that position, on the average of what everybody else is making.”

Morris said Adkins' "staff obviously warrants the raise, but I want to hear from my other council people where the pay scale for some of the other ones warrants that."

"When the mayor of Kettering makes $12,000, what are we looking at that warrants some of our administration [making] $90,000, $80,000, $70,000?" Morris asked. "How do we justify that to our citizens?"

Klein added that they would also have to “justify” the higher raises “to people like Shawn’s crew who aren’t making much at all.”

Day said that she has “asked from day one the benchmark of the data.” During the Oct. 21 finance committee meeting, Adkins said that he spoke to surrounding employers, including the county engineer’s office and area cities, in developing the pay ordinance.

Adkins explained that a new pay ordinance was last enacted in 2014, and in that time change there has been no increase to city employees’ base pay. When discussing cost-of-living increases, he said the city employees have had 11 increases since 2003 that average out to 1.5 percent per year.

Both Adkins and Abbott said during that meeting that the city has also faced issues with staff either leaving to find a better-paying job or struggling to hire people in at the current pay rate.

Day said Wednesday that two of the cities Adkins contacted, Wilmington and Washington Court House, are “twice the size of our town” and have larger budgets.

“That is not the best benchmark, in my opinion, for trying to find what should be the pay salaries of all employees of the city,” Day said. “There are systems out there.”

Later in the meeting, Klein echoed Day’s statement regarding the difference in population.

“That doesn’t matter much,” council president Tom Eichinger said. “It’s a government business which operates differently. The fact that Wilmington is twice as big, and other places are — we’ve lost people to Clermont County. That’s huge.”

Morris said then that they should look at positions of “people we’re losing and not people we’re retaining” for raises.

“The people we’re retaining are here out of the goodness of their heart, quite frankly,” Eichinger said.

Speaking of the information on data from other areas mentioned by Morris, Day said she sent her research to council members and administrators. She said she found a “reputable company” that “can narrow it down by municipality, by government, by size of city” and tell “exactly who is a high performer, overpaid and underpaid.”

“If that system was purchased by the city, it would be $9,500 for three years, per year,” Day said.

Stanforth interjected, saying, “This is not an appropriate time to bring it up because it is not on the agenda.” Morris disagreed, saying it applied to the pay ordinance, which was on the agenda.

“The problem is we’re discussing salaries at the 11th hour,” Eichinger said. “The administration has identified an opportunity this year to start to level the playing field for the employees who have not gotten raises for years, and you all know that. You’ve seen it.”

Morris said it was a “black and white” issue and repeated that Adkins’ “people” are deserving of the raises.

“The point is, if we fiddle around with this for the next three, four months, they’re not going to get what they have coming either,” Eichinger said. “We need to take some action now, as we are able to move into a new budget year with the ability to spend the money, because we’re going to have it, and then the next year, if we need to reevaluate and come up with different schemes, that’s the appropriate time to do it.”

Morris said they wouldn’t be able to “take back” raises if they are given. Adkins disagreed, saying that a new pay ordinance was passed in 2018 and quickly rescinded. Eichinger also pointed out that giving raises now “doesn’t guarantee” anything in the future.

“The only thing you have to worry about is can we handle it next year and help to close the gap that exists, and then we can study in a more sensible way what might go forward from there,” Eichinger said.

Day said that when laborers are “still not making the median” compared to other municipalities, but some administrative positions are “already at the top without the raise.”

Adkins responded that the county pays more for the same positions, but Morris said “they’re going to have more money than every city and their budget’s way huger than ours.”

“Our auditor’s already said our budget can withstand this,” civil service-employee relations chair Mark Middleton said.

“But why do that?” Morris said.

“Because these people need a raise, that’s why,” Middleton said.

Day then asked Butler to address “what we’re giving up” in the budget in order to account for the wage increases. (Later in the meeting, Maurer answered the question as well, saying the finance committee has already cut “fluff” from the budget.)

Butler said he would give neither “an endorsement” nor “a critique” of the proposed legislation, but he said “we have built the proposed pay scale into the budget.”

He said in order to account for the proposed wage increases, there were “several budget requests that were reevaluated or looked at to counteract the increase in pay.” However, Butler also pointed out that he had distributed detailed copies of every line item in the proposed 2022 budget at the start of Wednesday’s meeting.

“You have the full expense report,” he said. “You’ll see where money is going or not going compared to years past. This is on you, council as a whole, to decide if that’s acceptable.”

As the same topic continued to be brought up throughout the meeting, later Butler said there are “about a million moving parts” to planning the budget and that he could not “recall exactly how much from each line item was cut” in every conversation with every department head in the past two months.

Ellison added that their initial budget numbers account for “wish list” items that everyone knows going in will eventually be whittled down. “It’s not like anyone went through and cut essential services,” she said.

During one of his earlier explanations of the budget numbers, Butler addressed Hastings, saying “You’re shaking your head, Drew, and I don’t really understand why, so if you’ve got something to say, I’m all ears.”

Hastings said the 2022 budget is “for one year, but the raises are permanent and affect every budget going forward.”

“I’m not trying to argue or get into a back-and-forth with anybody, but our revenue has also been trending in a positive direction, generally speaking,” Butler said.

To Hastings’ point, Eichinger said a provision in the ordinance says “Percentage increases shall be included in the step increase at the beginning of the year if funds are available.”

“That’s always been the case,” Eichinger said.

The council president added the ordinance also says “All steps will receive the cost of living raise based on each previous step rate. All percentage raises will be based upon the amount of funds available.”

“Making the comment that it ‘keeps going up’ is accurate as long as the budget keeps being able to accommodate that increase, but if in fact we have a downturn, in the ordinance itself, it gives both the council and the city the opportunity to put the brakes on,” Eichinger said. “That’s part of the whole package, and it always has been.”

Day asked how cost-of-living increases were determined. Adkins said it was “a number council just pulled out of the air. That’s all it is.”

“It’s never been equal to the cost of living that’s actually out there,” Adkins said, and Ellison said it “doesn’t equal Medicare cost of living increase.”

“It was more like ‘could we afford to give them a little bit and not hurt our budget,’” she said. (As Adkins already said, it averaged to 1.5 percent per year.)

“But it’s still at the top end of the budget,” Morris said. “How does anybody justify that we’re paying way over hardly anybody in Ohio? If people are walking out, why are they walking out when they’re making more here than almost city in Ohio?”

“But they’re not,” Ellison said.

“But they are,” Morris said.

Adkins asked if the data Day and Morris referred to was dealing with the current pay scale enacted in 2014 or the proposed pay ordinance.

“I used for the labor, the proposed, because I don’t know what it was because you didn’t give us those numbers,” Day said.

Adkins responded that the wages are all listed in the 2014 pay ordinance, which was disseminated at the Oct. 21 finance committee meeting as well as being public record. “It’s $12.50 an hour,” he said.

Adkins said that the job descriptions in Hillsboro are more complicated as many individuals fill more than one role, with duties from more than one department. He said he “took an average” of wages from surrounding municipalities in determining the proposed pay ordinance.

“But those are all larger cities,” Morris said, and Aranyos said the other cities have larger budgets.

“But that is who is taking our people,” Adkins said.

Stanforth pointed out they clearly did not “have an issue” with granting raises for city laborers, which Morris and Day agreed.

“So which ones are the issue?” Maurer asked.

“The leadership salaries are already at 90 percent of what someone as a city manager would be making with two years of experience,” Day said.

Hastings said during his administration, council went “nuts” over a safety and service director being paid in the $60,000 range. The ordinance proposes a pay range of $75,000 to $90,000 for that position.

“It’s just a great deal of money to me, in my opinion, based on what that position has paid in the very recent past,” Hastings said.

Maurer asked about the chief building official/plans examiner position, which is not listed in the 2014 ordinance. Its proposed pay range is $65,000 to $85,000. Adkins said the position was added by the previous administration after that ordinance was enacted.

“That’s one of the reasons we wanted a new ordinance,” Ellison said. “There were titles that didn’t exist, and there were people that were under a title that they weren’t being paid for.

“If you look at the ordinance with just your laborers, your clerks, it’s the most fair ordinance the city has ever had. Typically, historically, women have not been paid in the clerk positions a living wage, nor have the laborers been paid a living wage.”

Ellison said that it isn’t “just Shawn’s department” affected, as was mentioned multiple times by council members. She said there were also plant employees and administrative positions in the city building who “literally could, in the past 10 years, have gotten food stamps and worked for the city of Hillsboro.” She also talked about the “revolving door” of laborers leaving for other better-paying jobs at other municipalities.

“While I can understand you wanting to look at this closer in some ways, there’s a lot of employees that deserve this ordinance to be passed,” Ellison said. “If you don’t feel that you can support one pay area, then by all means, do that.”

“My thing is why can’t we take it apart and give it where it’s needed, but not overpaying to the extreme?” Morris asked.

“I may not agree with you doing that, but you can,” Ellison said.

Morris said that seemed to be the “fair way” of doing things, as giving raises to positions where it’s “not warranted is almost like taking it away from the people that do warrant it.”

“You need to step back also and say ‘what does this person do?’” Ellison said. “Little towns like ours, we may not be Wilmington or Washington Court House, but we’ll work our employees to death. You’ll wear so many hats and have so much to do.”

Day again said the city needs to look into giving a “good, hard look” at hiring the company that would calculate the wages based on the job descriptions. Ellison said the city has hired companies in the past that have written job descriptions.

Middleton then interjected, disagreeing with Day’s request to hire the outside firm.

“If I was a person working out here on the streets for the city or whatever, I think I’d get about half [ticked] off, if I knew that my wages were being determined by a computer somewhere instead of people sitting down, deliberating and common sense applied,” he said. “Once in a while, you’ve just got to apply some common sense, deliberate things and come to an agreement.

“Don’t leave it all up to computers or phones. These people are out here working their [tails] off when it’s snowing a foot deep, all night long, and we’re going to let a computer tell them what they’re worth?”

Day said, “They are the ones we know need a raise, for God’s sake.”

“But they’re going to be affected by this computer stuff you’re talking about,” Middleton said. Day responded the laborers would “probably get more money,” but Middleton said, “You don’t know that.”

Adkins then told council that he is “one of the administrators you’re talking about,” as his proposed pay range is also $75,000 to $90,000. However, he said that he plows snow at nights after working all day and does not charge the city overtime, in addition to attending council meetings at their request and handling other duties on his own time.

“I do not get paid for this,” he said. “I get paid for 2,080 hours. I guarantee you I put more time into this city than anybody. If you don’t think my wages, I’m deserving of it, I’m fine with not getting it. I’m fine with not getting a pay increase.

“But don’t say that we don’t put our time in.”

Morris and Day said they “didn’t say that,” but Adkins said, “You’re saying my wages are too high.” The council members responded that was based on the statewide data.

“Are they basing it on 2,080 hours’ pay, or are these people getting paid overtime?” Adkins asked.

Stanforth then interrupted again as multiple people began talking over one another. She suggested that council not look at the higher end of the pay ranges, as “that’s not a given.”

“Look at what the starting salary would be,” she said. “The job that these people do in the administration, and the hours and time that they put in, and all the different hats that they have to wear … these are very deserving people.”

Regarding the SSD position, mayor Justin Harsha said that Abbott was “hired in at the $60,000 low mark” and only received the cost-of-living raise since.

“She’s been at the bottom of the barrel from the beginning, for two years,” Harsha said.

“But you do have to count it’s nice to get insurance raises,” Morris said. “I come from a different world where nobody gets benefits of any kind, and they work 40 to 50 to 60 hours a week for less than $30,000.”

Harsha said, “I’m well aware,” pointing out that he also owns his own business. Morris said it’s “hard for me to identify” with these numbers, and “everyone else” will have to “explain to taxpayers” how administrators get paid these wages. That prompted an off-topic argument started by Aranyos about wages of public officials as well as union and private employees.

Bringing them back on-topic, Eichinger asked Day which specific positions she researched. She said she compared salaries for public works superintendent; chief building official; police chief; safety and service director; and laborers.

Ellison again pointed out that, for example, Adkins’ role with the city involves public works, street and recreation positions; Adkins added that the city’s chief building official also serves as plans examiner, which has historically been a separate expense.

Day herself acknowledged that the police chief, Eric Daniels, also serves in an “IT” capacity (he has been the systems administrator since 2005). She added there are captain and administrative assistant to the chief positions in the pay ordinance that should impact the wages, but Adkins told her, “We haven’t had a captain in over 10 years.”

“You can’t sit here and make an accusation and a decision based on not-matching data,” Eichinger told Day.

The discussion then led to another off-topic argument by Day alleging the police department is “top-heavy” based on their average arrests and “must be in the office more.”

“As I’ve said before, Patty, that is not a council person’s job, to look at the number of arrests for a particular officer,” Eichinger said.

Switching topics again, Maurer said that he did the math on adding 1.5-percent annual raises to the scales in the 2014 ordinance and said the difference in starting pay between actual pay would be minimal.

“The base increase, going from person that was making $65,000 getting a 1.5-percent increase for the last seven years, we’d be at $73,222,” Maurer said. “We’re proposing that we’re going to $75,000 for the base pay.”

Morris said “we have to be careful” at the other end of the salary range of $90,000.

“A person hired seven years ago and had the pay increases of just 1.5 percent would already be at the bottom end,” he said.

Morris asked which position Maurer was referring to. He said he did the SSD position as an example, and Morris said, “Well, she hasn’t been here seven years.”

“I understand,” Maurer said. “I would do it with any of them.”

“I could see if you’re there for seven years, but she came in with basically no experience,” Morris said. “We just have to be fair.”

Adkins told Morris that in the 23 years he’s worked for the city, there has “only been a $2.80 pay increase” for laborers.

“That’s why it needs addressed,” Morris said.

Maurer asked if there were positions that council could agree to take off the ordinance.

“I think we need to relook at where they can jump to,” Morris said. “I think we don’t need to make a ‘this to this.’ I think we need to make a ‘here’s your salary, fair on what we’re looking at statewide.’”

Stanforth again brought up that “there’s no guarantee” of raises from year to year, based on the wording in the ordinance.

“But they’ll say ‘we can justify them,’” Morris said. “That could happen next year and the next year, because that’s what’s being looked at before anything else. We’re doing pay raises before anything else is looked at.”

Hastings then went on a self-described “philosophical” tangent about needing to make crosswalks safer in Hillsboro, which he claimed they weren’t doing because they are prioritizing raises, which Harsha said was inaccurate.

Morris said the city needed to be “mindful of the people we are serving who all understand hard work too,” as she said the average household income was $33,000 or $17,000 for an individual income.

“I think if you work for the city, you should make a living wage, don’t you?” Middleton said.

“Many people don’t,” Morris said. “I can’t help that in Hillsboro. It’s just how it is. It doesn’t make a difference what your job is.”

Morris said “everybody’s equal” and the city employees are no “better or worse” than anyone else. Harsha said the ordinance has been looked at “across the board.”

“The big issue was there’s been nothing done since 2014,” Harsha said. “The last administration when Drew was here, they looked at it, council passed it, they hadn’t budgeted for it and it had to be rescinded. This is a thing that’s been laying dormant in finance committee for quite some time, so we’ve got a big hurdle to go from 2014 to now.”

Day said that she “doesn’t appreciate as a councilperson” that they didn’t get the ordinance until November.

“The administration’s lack of doing their homework prior to the budget time is not a crisis for council, in my opinion,” she said. “I feel like we should not pass this without a three-reading rule. We should have the time we need to do due diligence and look at this thoroughly.”

Day said she was willing to consider the wage increases and “make it retro to January 1st” if passed later, since then “people will know” they’ve considered it.

Harsha told Day she could have attended and asked questions at finance committee meetings. She said she went to the first one but was unable to attend the second.

“I have not received one phone call from anybody,” Harsha said. “I have been available anytime.”

Morris said Harsha “wouldn’t be able to … tear this apart and make it fair for each person.” She again asked why they could not take out the ranges and “just make it a number” in the ordinance and said “it is our job,” referring to a previous statement by Eichinger.

“I agree with that, but it needs to be done between the committees and administration, and it does not need to be brought into a council meeting where the administrative questions are still being asked,” Eichinger said. “You get the data ahead of time. You should have asked before you get to council.”

Stanforth asked if putting only starting salaries in the ordinance would be a solution, as the ordinance outlines ranges for some positions or yearly step increases for others. Morris said “they should all be … a number.”

“I don’t think you can do that,” Ellison said, but Morris said she wanted to do it for this year only. She also said she’s “asked for seven years” how much city employees are making, which Ellison and Stanforth told her is public record.

“I got them in a bundle, like ‘this department makes,’” Morris said.

“What is it that you have requested from me that you have not received?” Butler asked.

Morris said she wanted a “breakdown of everybody’s pay,” and Butler said he “did send you information.”

“This is not pointed at you,” Morris said.

“But when you say you ask for information from me that I did not provide, I don’t take it any other way,” Butler said.

“Well, you know I came in and asked you for it,” Morris said.

“Yes, and you know I gave you information,” Butler said.

He said he gave Morris “what I could,” but she had asked for Excel documents that his office’s system cannot create.

“I gave you PDF breakdowns of position and pay,” Butler said. “I can’t generate information that you would like or that’s easier to digest if the system doesn’t do that, but I just want to be clear that I provided the information.”

Morris responded, “I wish you would haven’t gotten the state system that breaks it down for us a long time ago.”

From there, conversations veered back into discussing whether the city was cutting specific projects from the project to account for pay increases, as detailed above, as well as off-topic conversations about approaching property owners regarding sidewalk and street light improvements and questions from Hastings regarding the police union resolution.

Stanforth again attempted to bring everyone back on topic.

“We’ve been talking about this for an hour and half,” Stanforth said. “I think we need to wrap this up and decide what we’re going to do with this pay ordinance. I understand your hesitancy on these. We all understand the value of our employees. I think in order to retain them and keep the quality that we have now, we should definitely consider this pay raise and pass it.”

Maurer said he had another question and asked whether all the new positions in the pay ordinance not already accounted for in the 2014 legislation were currently filled or whether they were being added.

“These are people that actually Drew’s administration put these people in these positions, and they’ve never been put into a pay ordinance,” Adkins said.

Stanforth asked for a motion to send the ordinance to council, while in response Maurer asked whether they could take a straw poll to see whether the ordinance would pass if forwarded to full council.

“If it’s not something we’re going to do, then it needs to stay in finance committee so we can fix it,” Maurer said.

“But then we’ll have no budget at the end of the year, probably,” Stanforth said.

Maurer said he wanted “to move forward on this, but we don’t have what we need” as far as votes.

“I have a question that relates to that, then,” Eichinger said. “The current budget proposal has the dollars in it to support this pay raise proposal.

“If in fact the pay raise proposal can’t get finalized until January and February, can we still get a budget approved that doesn’t have to be modified later so that we can move forward next year? In other words, in [Day’s] thoughts about retroactive pay back to January 1, it would imply that you have to have the money planned in the budget anticipating that something like what we’ve got is going to be there.”

Ellison said if the proposed budget ordinance “stays as it is,” it would “already have the pay [increases] in it,” but if the budget is approved, “then it’s up to the department heads and administration to spend it” and council is “out of the picture.”

“That’s why I’m asking the question,” Eichinger said. “If we have two budgets, and pass another budget later, I don’t know that that’s ever been done, for one thing, and I’m not sure that it makes sense, if we really want to pay the critical employees that you’re talking about.

“Basically, by not getting a handle [on the pay ordinance], the administration’s hands are tied on the very people you say you want to make sure get handled.”

Maurer added the pay ordinance “is as important as the budget.”

“We have to come to an agreement, whether it’s we agree as it is or we agree to meet again and fix it the way we can all agree upon,” Maurer said.

Day then brought up the committee meetings and again brought up wanting the “benchmark information” for the proposed ordinance.

Ellison said that she wanted to address Day’s comments about not getting all the information, getting information late, etc. She said she felt it was a “50-50 thing” and pointed out that the pay ordinance had been placed in finance committee prior to the pandemic and was not resolved.

“This subject has been in a committee of council since before COVID,” Ellison said. “Administration had to say if council’s not going to do it, then we’re going to have to do it. It’s 50-50. Council didn’t do their part. You’re saying administration didn’t do their part.”

Day then began voicing complaints about her own council committee assignments, while Maurer distributed copies of the 2014 pay ordinance. Ellison told council that is “exactly what was passed in 2014,” which does not reflect any raises.

As he mentioned earlier, Maurer told council that if they took the average 1.5-percent annual raise “and you multiply it out for those people that have been here, some of these raises are not significant.”

“I agree with you the high ends are too much, and that’s what we need to address,” Maurer said. “It is important for all the people, especially at the bottom, to get the raises. It’s incumbent on us to come together and fix it. Do the work at the meetings, fix it and then we can fix the budget. If we don’t fix this, it could become catastrophic with the budget.”

Adkins asked why council couldn’t pass the proposed budget as is, earmarking the proposed wage increases to a separate line item that could be moved back into “the wage line item” once council reaches a consensus on the pay ordinance.

“This is the budget it’s going to be, pretty much with or without the pay,” Adkins said.

Eichinger asked Butler if that was possible.

“I will confirm with the people I need to confirm that with to make sure that that’s kosher, but I’m willing to do that,” the auditor said.

At this point, over 104 minutes into the meeting, Stanforth asked if all were in agreement with revisiting the range of administrators in the proposed pay ordinance.

“So it’s the high end on admin you don’t want, right?” Ellison asked.

“Well, like it says on safety and service director, it gives the stipulations ‘have a minimum of college degree or equivalent of five years’ experience in municipal management or related business,’” Morris said. “Her and others, or whatever, can work their way up to their pay. I think you should start at the bottom until you get experience.

“We could take some of that and take it to Shawn’s people and feel more comfortable about the whole budget.”

Adkins said that Abbott’s pay is already “at the bottom” of the pay scale, as pointed out by Harsha earlier. Eichinger asked if Morris was proposing cutting Abbott’s pay. Morris said she was not but she thought they should “leave her right there and leave it alone because it’s already high by state standards.”

Day asked Adkins for his “homework” on that position. He said that Wilmington has a “service director” with a starting pay of $100,000 as well as a separate “safety director” position. Council members again responded that Wilmington had a larger annual budget than Hillsboro.

For other positions in the ordinance, there are “steps” (first year, second year, third year, fourth year) outlined, and Ellison asked if council would prefer that they include that for the administrators. Morris said “yes,” and Maurer said the current ordinance gave the impression that they’re “going to pay $90,000 in four years, and that’s a hefty increase.”

Stanforth said, “Let’s try to wrap this pay ordinance up” — at this point, an hour and 50 minutes into the meeting — and asked if council could agree to hold another meeting to resolve their issues. Maurer asked if they could just amend the ordinance by removing “the top end off of” the administrators’ positions.

“That’s what I asked earlier,” Stanforth said. “The opposition seems to be the top end.”

Adkins asked, “Are you just talking about mine and Bree’s?”

“I think they’re just talking about Bree’s,” Ellison said.

Eichinger said they needed to identify “exactly which ones are the issues,” and Day said they “still don’t have benchmark numbers.”

Maurer again asked if council could “make progress” on the ordinance if they removed the “top end of the ranges.” Day repeated that she wanted to see Adkins’ research.

“It was just a call and conversation and I wrote it down,” Adkins said.

“That’s where we’re basing where we need to go, how you averaged it all out,” Day said. “At least let us know what tool you used to come up with this so at least there’s some solid data.”

Maurer said he “thought the problem was with the higher end” on some positions. “I feel like we’re spinning our wheels,” he said. “The important thing is if we can come to a compromise and make this happen tonight.”

Day responded that she thought the city “might be underpaying” some positions. Maurer said he was “not opposed” to her idea of hiring a firm to evaluate the positions at some point, but “we need to make a compromise and get this done.”

“This is for all the people that work here, and we need to get it done, especially for the little people,” he said. “We need to not drag our feet and get it done. I know that part of the issue is the top end. What is it that we can compromise, today, and make this work so we can move forward?”

Day said council needs to “know that we are on track with” individuals being paid “appropriate rates.”

“I feel like you’re talking in circles,” Maurer said. “On one hand, you talk about how the lowest are underpaid. I’m trying to compromise with you and say OK, let’s take the top end off and make it work, and you’re saying ‘we need to think about it.’”

Day responded that reaching a compromise “is not going to fix the problem forever,” and they’re “still going to have this mess.”

“We’ve been elected to continue to work this mess,” Maurer said. “Just because we get this fixed for this budget doesn’t mean we’re not going to have to continue to work on this.”

Day again brought up hiring the other firm, and Maurer told her again that he was “not against it” in the future.

“I’m trying to say, can we compromise?” Maurer said. “Or can we not? That’s the question I’m trying to pose to you, and you’re saying ‘well, maybe, maybe not.’ And that’s fine — if that’s the way it is, there is no more point in talking tonight. Game over. But if there’s a solution, then we need to strive to make a compromise so we can move forward.”

Day said she had said “10 times at least” — although unofficially, it was at least 13 times — that she wanted Adkins’ “benchmark” numbers.

“Are you saying you need to see them before you can agree on the low-end employee pay raises that are being proposed?” Eichinger asked. “Because if that’s what you’re saying, you are talking in circles, I think. The kind of thing that you want to do — which makes sense — is going to take time, and it’s going to take a bunch of research.”

Maurer again said that it was important to think of the “little people” affected by the ordinance, and Ellison said she agreed with him but pointed out it’s “important for everyone.”

“When you guys keep putting this off — whatever your opinion and thinking is on it — you’re basically saying ‘we don’t really appreciate you, we’re going to wait,’” Ellison said.

Day said that it wasn’t council’s “fault” when they received the ordinance, and Maurer told her that a compromise is “a step along the road.”

“It’s not the final step,” he said. “We don’t have to take all the steps we need to take. This is not a one-and-done. Even cutting the top end is going to force us to continually evaluate it.

“This is not a machine that just runs by itself. We have to oil it. We have to make sure it has all the fluids it needs and keep pumping it forward. That means we all have to be involved and make the hard decisions.”

Morris asked if they could enter executive session, and Eichinger said, “No.”

The meeting then gradually turned into a variety of side conversations for about three minutes before Eichinger proposed a possible “compromise,” now two hours and six minutes into the meeting.

“For safety and service director, tax commissioner, chief building official/plans examiner, if we put in what their salary is now, if they’re frozen, or what their salary is expected to be based on what’s in the budget right now — one number, and only that, for this document,” Eichinger proposed, but Maurer interjected that he liked including a range in the ordinance.

“The range could be done as part of the next piece,” Eichinger said. “This is just for this budget.

“We just put the amount that is expected to be paid to them for each of these positions that have the ranges in the ordinance for 2022, and then we can add that. Then all the rest would stay the same for right now. That allows us to get a budget passed, and then the committees can go to work on an appropriate benchmark approach or whatever you guys decide to come up with a more structured pay range approach.”

Maurer “strongly asked” that they keep the lower end on the chief building official in the ordinance, as Adkins said that individual is already being paid on the upper end of the scale.

“Here’s another way that we can go,” Eichinger said. “If we have people that are at or near the top end, we can leave the range up to where they’re at.”

Ellison asked if they could include a provision for a three-percent raise.

“There would have to be language in here that says if a person at or above their top, all they’re eligible for is a cost-of-living [increase],” Eichinger said.

After more discussion about the logistics of the pay ordinance in relation to the budget, it was determined that the committees could meet again before the regular December meeting to finalize the pay ordinance, then suspend the three-reading rule and pass it at the December meeting. Council members all indicated they would be “agreeable” to that.

Council members discussed availability for their next meeting. Adkins — who had already left to begin plugging in numbers for their first proposed compromise — was then told by Eichinger about council switching to wanting to keep some ranges in the ordinance “up to what they’re making now, so you have the room to hire someone lower, if by some happenstance you lose them.”

“The only ones that will have ranges are where someone’s at or above the top that you’ve got here [on the proposed ordinance],” Eichinger said.

Adkins told Eichinger the range in the ordinance is “lower than what we’re paying now” for some positions, based on longevity.

“You’re extending the range out further than what I’m offering,” Adkins said. “I am trying to keep the higher end down.”

Eichinger told Adkins the solution would be to “take the top of every one of these ranges, and if they’re above it, leave the whole range in as you have it.” Eichinger said council would have to determine the basis for the “cost of living” increases for those who are “topped out.”

“You need a clause in there that states that if they aren’t getting a normal pay raise because of where they are, they get x-percent cost of living,” Eichinger said.

Adkins said that was “already figured” it at “three percent” with Ellison saying it was “just not worded out.”

“So are there changes that are going to made?” Maurer asked.

“Very few,” Adkins said.

Stanforth called for a motion to adjourn the committee meeting, saying they are tentatively scheduled to meet again Nov. 30.

At 8:30 p.m., council then called to order for their special meeting. The only action taken was voting 7-0 to approve the absence of Abbott, who Eichinger said was home ill, and hearing the second reading of a resolution to authorize and direct the Safety and Service Director to enter into a contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, following negotiations between the city and police unions.